The lost and found
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The lost and found

By: ola OngoingOther

Language: English
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Chapters: 14 views: 17

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In the wake of a shocking tragedy, Natalie Harper inherits her mother's charming but financially strapped bookshop in San Francisco. She also becomes caretaker for her ailing grandfather Andrew, her only living relative—not counting her scoundrel father.

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14 chapters
Prologue
The Flood MansionSan FranciscoStanding before the gathering at her mother’s memorial service, NatalieHarper glanced down at the podium. On the angled surface was a foldertitled “Resources for the Grieving,” along with her notes. The guide was acompendium of advice, but there was one thing it failed to explain: Howwas she supposed to go on after this?Natalie had been carrying the pages around for days, hoping she’dsomehow find an explanation for the inexplicable, or a way to express theinexpressible. But all the notes and resources in the world failed topenetrate the unfinished narrative of her mother’s life, which seemed todangle in the thin air of Natalie’s grief, just out of reach. The wordsshimmered in a wet blur before her eyes.She tried to remember what she meant to say—as if she could sum upBlythe Harper’s life in a three-minute speech. What did you say at yourmother’s final farewell? That she had been with you every minute of yourlife from the second you took yo
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chapter I
Archangel, Sonoma County, CaliforniaOne week earlierThis was a big moment for Natalie. The biggest in her career so far, forsure. The whole company had gathered in the reception hall of PinnacleFine Wines to celebrate her promotion and the million-dollar deal she’dmade for the firm. But her own mother was a no-show.True to form.To be fair, the drive from the city up to Archangel could be unpredictablein the afternoon. It was equally possible that Blythe Harper had completelyforgotten that she’d promised to show up to celebrate her daughter’sachievement.Natalie pasted on a smile and smoothed her hands down the front of herblazer, a tailored, conservative piece she wore over the white silk pussybow blouse she’d splurged on for the occasion. Meanwhile, she tracked thecompany owner, Rupert Carnaby, as he made his way to the podium at thedais, pausing to greet colleagues along the way. Then she glanced at thedoor, half hoping her mom would come dashing through at the last mi
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chapter II
A subdued smattering of applause accompanied her to the podium.Rupert beamed, his veneered teeth gleaming. In a small, petty corner of hermind, Natalie believed he knew she’d been keeping him afloat while heglad-handed with suppliers and accounts and played golf on company time.That was probably the real reason for this promotion.“Thank you,” she said awkwardly, unused to being in the limelight.Spoken aloud, the new job title sounded geeky, or perhaps even slightlymade-up. That was the nature of the field she was in, she supposed. She hadchosen this job for its stability and marketability. There would always be aplace for someone who could manage information technology and logistics,because those were matters that 99 percent of people had zero interest inand couldn’t stand doing.Managing inventory was not like being a diplomat, a deep-sea diver, awinemaker, a bookseller—jobs people might actually enjoy. “I’m gratefulfor this opportunity,” she continued, “and I’m looking
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chapter III
A silent scream built in Natalie’s chest. Missing an important deadlineput the entire agreement at risk. How could this have happened?In her gut, she knew. Mandy had been in charge of the filing. Natalie haddrummed into her again and again that the hard deadline was crucial.Mandy had drummed back that she had it handled. Natalie had doublechecked with her.But she hadn’t triple-checked.Holding in panic, she stabbed a number into the phone. This was the dealshe had worked so hard to bring to fruition, competing fiercely with othersuppliers for the wedding and franchise contracts.If the deal fell through, Natalie would be faced with the decision aboutwhether to protect Mandy from being fired. The woman made mistake aftermistake, and typically, Natalie covered for her. Mandy was everyone’sfavorite. Everyone’s pet. She was adorable, funny, charming, beloved.Natalie practically strangled the phone in her hand as she contacted thestate controller’s office and the district manag
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chapter IV
A shower and a change of clothes helped a little, but Natalie still feltdevastated by what she’d overheard. Devastated, yet on some levelunsurprised. She would never deny that she was precise. Orderly. Exactingof both herself and others.Looking around her modest apartment, she admitted to a penchant forneatness.But did that make her a horrible person?Finger-combing her dark, curly hair, which was possibly the only unrulything about her, she thought about her clean, paid-for hybrid car, her tidyhome, her secure little life . . . and—the tiniest voice inside her whispered—the emptiness.She didn’t know what might fill it up. She had created the home she’dlacked as a child—predictable, simple, neat. The apartment, while pleasantenough, was missing some essential quality she couldn’t quite pinpoint. Itwas in a pink stucco building as small and sweet as a cupcake, furnishedwith the things she liked to surround herself with—comfy chairs andshelves crammed with books, and a so
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chapter V
Natalie always had a flawless manicure. It was something she considerednecessary to look professional at work. For all the good that did her. Shedove into the destemming with both hands, turning her fingers the deep richcolor of old-vine zinfandel.They worked side by side for a while. The repetitive task and the chatterof Tess’s family helped a little. “What if they’re right?” Natalie musedaloud. “My work peeps, I mean. What if they’re right and I’m toxic, and noone can stand me?”Tess didn’t say anything right away, but Natalie felt her hard, studyinggaze. “What?” she asked finally.“You need a drink.” Tess caught Dominic’s eye. “We’re taking a break,”she said, gesturing Natalie over to a stationary tub with a hose.“Slacker,” said her husband with a grin.Tess stuck out her tongue at him and turned away. “I’m a toxic boss, too,sometimes. They just don’t dare say anything.”After they washed up, Tess poured a glass of zinfandel from a casklabeled Old Vine—Creek Slope. For
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chapter VI
“Grandy.” Natalie spoke her grandfather’s name softly, with as muchgentleness as she could muster. “It’s time to go.”As she stepped through the door, Andrew Harper rose from his favoritewingback chair in his tiny apartment at the back of the bookstore. He couldno longer navigate the stairs in the old building and had moved to the newspace from the upstairs apartment where he’d lived nearly all his life. Thesmall ground-floor studio had been reclaimed from a storage room. Thehurried arrangement wasn’t ideal, but it spared her grandfather from havingto leave his lifelong home. Though the space was cramped, there was apicture window with a view of the tiny rear garden, now bright with the lastof the season’s hollyhocks and roses.Curving a hand over the top of his cane, he turned to her. A sweet smilelifted the corners of his mouth. “Ah, there you are, Blythe. I’ve beenwaiting for you. How nice you look. Is that a new frock?”Natalie’s heart swelled as she crossed the room to
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chapter VII
She opened the door and cleared a path through the piled tokens that hadbeen spontaneously left there—bouquets of flowers, dog-eared novels andmemorabilia, candles and handmade sketches and cards. The Lost andFound Bookshop had been a fixture on Perdita Street for as long as Nataliehad been alive, and the sudden demise of its owner had inspired a huge,loving, and immensely sad reaction.One thing Natalie had never wondered about until now: After theexplosion of tributes, then what? Who picked up the wilted flowers, therain-soaked poems, the blurred photos, the jarred candles?The waiting black car smelled of canned deodorizer. The driver helpedher grandfather into the back seat. Traffic was heavy even on a Saturdaymorning, and the drive to the Flood Mansion crawled along through wispysnakes of fog, past trees twisted and shaped by the wind, and along theslanting rooflines of the city’s Victorian Painted Ladies. Ringing cable carslurched past bustling cafés and shops. As th
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chapter VIII
The town car drew up at the mansion, a sumptuous crown atop a hilloverlooking majestic views of the Bay Area—the bay itself, the GoldenGate Bridge, and the hills of Marin County.“This building has a romantic story,” Grandy said, seeming to snap out ofhis silence. “After the great earthquake, Maud Flood was so afraid of firethat her husband built her a grand house of marble atop this granite hill. Hewanted to give her a new place made entirely of stone, so she would feelsafe.”“Now that,” Natalie said, “is a good husband.” Rick would have made agood husband, she thought, immersing herself again in guilt. He had beencaring, and cautious, and he knew how to look after things. He was steadyand stable, her two favorite qualities not only in people but in life itself.A pair of white-gloved attendants held the door for her and Grandy.Someone in the foyer took their coats and Grandy’s hat to the cloakroom. Abeautifully rendered poster on an easel welcomed guests to the celebratio
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chapter IX
Andrew Harper felt the soft caress of the music on his face as he waited.Waited for what?His mind darted away in search of the answer. It was a slippery process,like trying to catch polliwogs in the pond shallows in springtime. Heglanced over at the young woman sitting beside him. She had pale skin anddark curly hair, and a face so beautiful and so sad it cracked his heart intwo.Now that he was old and plagued by strange fugues of forgetfulness,Andrew was learning to pay attention to certain details he used to filter out—sounds and smells, colors and fleeting images. Focusing on one thing—the timbre of a voice, the narrative on a page in a book—was increasinglydifficult and disturbing. Walking out onto the street was like entering anamphitheater into an overwhelming and deafening cacophony of confusion.He shored up his thoughts. He had to teach himself to think in a differentway.Although he knew Dr. Yang would disapprove, he had skipped taking histablets this morning.
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